Arab media growing better: Seymour Hersh

Vibrancy was the soul of the second day of the Eighth Arab Media Forum 2009 as it hosted some of the most respected journalists and personalities discussing regionally relevant subjects.

Seymour Hersh, the renowned American investigative journalist, in his opening keynote address said: "Barack Obama's deeds were unsatisfactory, compared to the message he sent since his election as the US President about mutual respect with the Arab and the Muslim world.

Leading the first session at the second day of the Arab Media Forum, Hersh answered questions of Arab journalists eager to do investigative stories, but even more on his views of the American policy towards the Arab World, and his evaluation of the Arab media.

He said that the Arab media helped trigger a lot of questions about the credibility of news covered by the news networks in the US, and led journalists to dig.

"The Arab media are growing better, and we are following the Arab World better." In Egypt, he said, he met young journalists who were enthusiastic about exposing the financial frauds.

Yet, Western journalists face other problems. "Because I do not name my sources in my stories it is easy to be accused of lying, although The New Yorker where I work knows all my sources and speaks to them to check facts."

The second day of the Forum focused further on the various aspects of the relation between the West and the Arabs be it in the media or the audience. The Arab versions of international TV stations drew a discussion among the representatives of Al Hurra TV, BBC Arabic, Russia Today and France 24 which announced increasing its Arabic broadcasting hours from four to 10. The debate, however, led the speakers to defend their stations, against claims of unobjectivity, over representation of the American or European views and a general scepticism of the role of such media in highlighting the pressing issues of the Arab World and exposing them fairly abroad.

Speaking to Emirates Business, Aydar Aganin, Director, Rusya Al Yaum news channel, spoke on Russia's need to talk to the Arab World. "Yes, we are in a conflict, because all that Arabs hear about Russia is communism and economic fall. We need to address the Arab audience, on Russia's view towards the Arab and global affairs from our perspective."

Rusya Al Yaum, state-financed, however, does not solely reflect the government views, he said.

Nahida Nakad, Deputy Editor, France 24, reiterated the need to produce a media message that was not "Anglo-Saxon". "We have a different style, our colours are different. Our priorities are more focused on culture and social issues, and this is the French way."

"We want France to be known to the Arab audience, because we deserve that. The French have not yet fully understood the dynamic of country branding, but this is an effort to introduce our culture and build our image, but we have be known first to be able to do that, and that is what France 24 is doing."

During the debate, moderator Diana Mokalled said of Arabic versions of International TV stations being the mouthpiece of their governments, rationalising the reasons to attack the Arab World in the process.


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